Inside Seven
Current Issue: September 2014
Riders are advised to wear protective clothing and to learn motorcycle safety rules before getting on the freeway.

by  Judy Gish
Issue Date: 09/2008

The Message to 'Share the Road' is reinforced to Motorists and Motorcyclists

You may have noticed it on your freeway commute: a rapidly-escalating buzzing noise and – whoosh – suddenly there’s a motorcycle in your lane. Sometime later, there’s another one and, further along, another one.

This scenario is being played out more and more as gas prices force an increasing number of commuters out of their cars and onto motorcycles. An unfortunate consequence is a growing incidence of motorcycle fatalities and serious accidents.

For this reason, Caltrans is advising both motorists and motorcyclists to be extra cautious and conscious of one another on State highways and freeways. “Motorcycle drivers must use the utmost caution when driving at high speeds, and drivers of other vehicles must be aware of their presence,” said Caltrans Director Will Kempton.

According to recent California Highway Patrol (CHP) accident statistics, motorcycles were involved in 12,350 collisions, resulting in 429 fatalities, or 10 percent of the total number of people killed on California’s roadways. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that per vehicle miles traveled, motorcyclists are about 35 times more likely than passenger car occupants to die in a traffic collision.

Motorists can help reduce these numbers by remembering that motorcyclists could be sharing their lanes. Following distance should be increased to ensure that a motorcyclist has enough time to maneuver or stop in an emergency. Also, drivers should slow down and watch for clues from motorcyclists, such as glancing over either shoulder, which would indicate that the rider is planning to turn or change lanes.

The Motorcycle Safety Foundation, which works with the federal government, state agencies, the military and others to provide rider education courses, operator licensing tests and public information, offers the following Quick Tips—Ten Things All Car and Truck Drivers Should Know About Motorcycles (abbreviated):

Always look for motorcycles, especially when checking traffic at an intersection; when turning, predict that a motorcycle is closer than it looks; because of their small size, motorcycles can easily be missed—be sure to check blind spots; assume that a motorcycle is moving faster than it really is; predict that a motorcyclist may slow down without visual warning; motorcycle signals do not turn off automatically, so be sure the rider really intends to turn; recognize that motorists sometimes adjust positions within a lane because of potential hazards you may not be aware of; motorcycles can’t maneuver quickly in all conditions, so they may not be able to get out of the way; when a motorcycle is in motion, don't think of it as a motorcycle; think of it as a person.

Motorcyclists can protect their own safety by following the rules of the road, being alert to nearby vehicles and potential road hazards, wearing helmets and protective clothing, and taking a Motorcycle Riders’ Course.

“Attentive and courteous behavior on the road will create a safer environment for all freeway and highway users,” said Caltrans District 7 Director Doug Failing.


Motorcycles are legally allowed to split lanes with motor vehicles, requiring extra caution for both riders and drivers. The California Highway Patrol (CHP)is responsible for enforcing motorcycle safety regulations. Motorcycle riders are extremely vulnerable to a variety of driving conditions. Motorists should allow extra space for them to maneuver. These riders are having fun--safely.